MIND MELD: Where Would You Take the T.A.R.D.I.S.?

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It was the recent Mind Meld on Favorite Convention Panels, combined with the romance of the phrase “All of time and space. Everything that ever happened or ever will…,” that inspired me to ask our panelists this question:

Q: If you could take one trip in the T.A.R.D.I.S., where would you go?

Here’s what they said:
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The Bram Stoker Award final ballot was recently announced, reminding me why horror as a genre is so much fun, so in that spirit, I asked our panel these questions:

Q: What first piqued your interest in horror, and why do you enjoy writing in the genre? What direction do you see the genre taking in the future, and who are a few of your favorite horror writers, books, or stories?

Here’s what they had to say…

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MIND MELD: Epic Geek Debates & Rants

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Geeks are a passionate and opinionated people. Put two of them in a room and more often than not a debate and/or rant will ensue. Sometimes it’s not pretty. With that in mind, we asked our esteemed panel of geeks the following:

Q: What was the first or most memorable geeky pop-culture debate you ever had? Or what’s that one thing you can’t stop ranting about? What was the outcome? Are you still on speaking terms with your opponent? Why are you so passionate about this?

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MIND MELD: Our Favorite Convention Panels

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This week, we asked our panlists about their favorite Convention Panels:

Q: What was the best convention panel you ever attended? What was the best convention panel you were ever on? If you could set up your ideal convention panel, what would be the topic and who would be on it?

This is what they said…

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MIND MELD: Blurring the Lines in Genre Fiction

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I love novels that can walk the lines of multiple genres, so, in that spirit, I asked our panelists these questions:

Q: As a writer, why do you think it’s important to step outside of your comfort zones when writing, perhaps to explore other genres? What books have you read that blur the lines between genres and do it effectively?

Here’s what they had to say…

Andrew Smith
Andrew Smith is the award-winning author of several Young Adult novels, including the critically acclaimed Winger and The Marbury Lens. He is a native-born Californian who spent most of his formative years traveling the world. His university studies focused on Political Science, Journalism, and Literature. He has published numerous short stories and articles. Grasshopper Jungle is his seventh novel, followed by 100 Sideways Miles, his eighth, coming in September 2014. He lives in Southern California.

I honestly do not think of “genres” at all when I write. I also don’t envision a targeted audience. I know that this goes against the philosophy of the majority, but it’s how I write. I write the story that pleases me, and I write it entirely for myself. I’m not a big fan of “comfort zones” when writing, either, because being comfortable sounds too much like sticking to the same old formula. I like to experiment with plot, narrative style, content, and structure every time I start something new. This is frequently challenging, but it keeps things interesting, too. I don’t like feeling bored or boxed in by a particular brand. So it’s always been the most difficult thing for me to precisely categorize any novel of mine in terms of genre and what it might be comparable to.

I think a lot of Vonnegut’s work scatters across the constraints of genre. I also admire Robbins’ Jitterbug Perfume and Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. In terms of YA literature, I’m a big fan of A.S. King’s work.

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MIND MELD: The Best & Worst Genre Movie Adaptations

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Sure the books are almost always better than the movie, but that hasn’t stopped Hollywood from adapting genre fiction. So with that in mind, we asked our esteemed panel…

Q: What is the best movie adapted from SF/F/H fiction? The worst? Why did they succeed or fail?

This is what they said…

Lisa Morton
Lisa Morton is an award-winning screenwriter, novelist, and Halloween expert whose most recent books are the novels Malediction and Netherworld: Book One of the Chronicles of Diana Furnaval; forthcoming is a tie-in novel to the Stephen Jones-edited anthology series Zombie Apocalypse: Washington Deceased, and a non-fiction history of ghosts. Lisa lives in North Hollywood, California, and online at www.lisamorton.com.

The best for me is The Exorcist. Because the screenplay adaptation is by the original novelist, it hews closely to the book and it never gives into either backing down from the book’s most controversial scenes nor inflating them. I’d also suggest that director William Friedkin chose the perfect style to compliment William Peter Blatty’s story — he eschewed the Gothic trappings that had been common in horror films up to that point, and instead took a documentary approach to the material, treating it in a dramatic and very realistic fashion.

For my worst, I’m going to choose the film version of Alan Moore’s brilliant Watchmen, because I’ve never seen another adaptation that so completely inverted the intent of its source material. Moore’s original graphic novel is a deconstruction of superheroes, but the film is a ludicrous celebration. My favorite example is a scene in which the very disturbed character of Rorschach crashes through an upper-floor window and falls into a ring of police. In the graphic novel, it takes three small panels to show Rorschach crashing through the window and landing, where he’s stunned and easily beaten down; in the movie, he falls forever in slow-motion and then fights off the cops successfully for some time before being overwhelmed. The entire movie mythologizes these characters where Moore’s intention was to show them as psychologically damaged. I was so furious after seeing that movie that I wanted to punch the projectionist.

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MIND MELD: Secondary Characters Who Take Center Stage

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Protagonists and antagonists get lots of spotlight in novels, but sometimes the most intriguing characters are the minor ones, the ones that briefly grace the stage and depart, leaving the main characters to their business.This week, we asked our panel about the most iconic of fantasy creatures:

Q: What minor characters in novels and stories have caught your interest, and want to know more about? What characters in your own work have gathered unexpected interest, and you’d like to write from their point of view?

This is what they said…
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MIND MELD: What’s “Wrong” with Epic Fantasy?

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On episode 224 of the SF Signal Podcast, a discussion began about how epic fantasy can sometimes be too long, too detailed, too sprawling, often getting weighed down by its own epicness, and running the risk of losing the reader.  With that podcast and the comments it generated in mind, I asked our panelists this question:

Q: Is something Wrong With Epic Fantasy? If yes, how might it be fixed?

Here’s what they said…
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[Here's an addendum to the Mind Meld about 2013 Debut Authors on Lessons They've Learned Since Getting Published, coming from Yangsze Choo]

There were so many wonderful debut authors in 2013, so I asked a few of them this:

Q: What was the most fun/unusual/interesting/etc thing you’ve learned since becoming a published author?

Here’s what they had to say…
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There were so many wonderful debut authors in 2013, so I asked a few of them this:

Q: What was the most fun/unusual/interesting/etc thing you’ve learned since becoming a published author?

Here’s what they had to say…

April Genevieve Tucholke
April Genevieve Tucholke is a full-time writer who digs classic movies, redheaded villains, big kitchens, and discussing murder at the dinner table. She and her husband—a librarian, former rare-book dealer, and journalist—live in Oregon. Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is her first novel.

Some interesting/unusual things I’ve learned as a 2013 debut:

  1. Use discretion when telling people you’re a writer. There is a 95 percent chance you will end up in a Fifty Shades of Grey conversation.
  2. Being an author means people will assume you’re rich and that you drink all the time. No matter what. They just will.
  3. “April Genevieve Tucholke” is far, far too long a name. It’s cocky, almost arrogant. What was I thinking?
  4. People will try to sell you their ideas for your next book. Try not to kill them.
  5. People will ask you how your sales are, and you will be too stunned every damn time to think of a good comeback.*
  6. If you leave your book lying around your parents will read it when they stay for the holidays. And you will regret those steamy scenes.
  7. Getting to meet (and occasionally hang out) with other authors never gets old.
  8. Readers rule.

* Such as: “I don’t know. How’s your salary?” or “Here’s my bank info. Why don’t you log on and check things out for
yourself?”

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When Mark London Williams and I decided to move our long running SF Site column Nexus Graphica to SF Signal, we decided that we needed to announce our presence with a bang. Hence, this Mind Meld was born, in which we asked our esteemed panelists this question:

Q: What graphic novels are part of your desert island collection?

The only caveat we gave the contributors that their selections could not include the obvious books such as Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, Maus, and their ilk.

I’ll return next month with the first installment of the new Nexus Graphica and Mark issues his first SF Signal contribution in March. We’ll alternated columns every other month, culminating with a special two parter in December, featuring our annual best of the year lists. But more on this in February.

For now, enjoy the confab.
(And be sure to check out Part 1!)

Joe R. Lansdale
Mojo Storyteller Joe R. Lansdale is the author of over thirty novels and numerous short stories. His work has appeared in national anthologies, magazines, and collections, as well as numerous foreign publications. He has written for comics, television, film, newspapers, and Internet sites. His work has been collected in eighteen short-story collections, and he has edited or co-edited over a dozen anthologies. He has received the Edgar Award, eight Bram Stoker Awards, the Horror Writers Association Lifetime Achievement Award, the British Fantasy Award, and many others. His novella Bubba Hotep was adapted to film by Don Coscarelli, starring Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis. He is currently co-producing several films, among them The Bottoms, based on his Edgar Award-winning novel, with Bill Paxton and Brad Wyman, and The Drive-In, with Greg Nicotero.

DC archives. All of them. Dell and Gold Key archives. End of story

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[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

When Mark London Williams and I decided to move our long running SF Site column Nexus Graphica to SF Signal, we decided that we needed to announce our presence with a bang. Hence, this Mind Meld was born, in which we asked our esteemed panelists this question:

Q: What graphic novels are part of your desert island collection?

The only caveat we gave the contributors that their selections could not include the obvious books such as Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, Maus, and their ilk.

I’ll return next month with the first installment of the new Nexus Graphica and Mark issues his first SF Signal contribution in March. We’ll alternated columns every other month, culminating with a special two parter in December, featuring our annual best of the year lists. But more on this in February.

For now, enjoy the confab.
(And be sure to check out Part 2!)

Walter Simonson
Over the years, Walter Simonson has written and/or drawn a lot of comics for various companies including the NY Times bestselling Alien graphic novel, Manhunter, the Metal Men, Superman, Batman, Thor, X-Factor, Fantastic Four, RoboCop vs. the Terminator, X-Men vs. the Teen Titans, Orion, Elric: The Making of a Sorcerer written by Michael Moorcock, and The Judas Coin. Currently, Walter is writing and drawing Ragnarök, a creator-owned comic book, to be published in 2014 by IDW.

Sharaz-De by Sergio Toppi. Beautiful beautiful drawing, and at last, there’s an English version!

The Airtight Garage of Jerry Cornelius (as it was originally called) by Moebius. Completely wonked-out story with drawing ranging from cartoony to super-elegant by Moebius. Lovely work.

The entire Modesty Blaise run of Peter O’Donnell and Jim Holdaway. It’s not in a single volume so I’m not sure how this works for a desert island, but it’s my favorite run of a newspaper strip and very influential in my work.

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MIND MELD: Books We Can’t Wait to Read in 2014

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It’s a new year and you know what that means…new book releases! So with that in mind, we’ve asked our panelists the following question:

Q: What upcoming book or books (to be released in 2014) are you most looking forward to reading? Why?

Here’s what they said…
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MIND MELD: Our Favorite SF/F/H Consumed In 2013

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It’s 2014 and that means it’s time to look back at all the SF/F/H available in 2013. Our panelists were asked this question:

Q: What was the best SF/F/H you “consumed” in 2013?

Consumed being anything read/watched/heard during 2013, but not necessarily new in 2013. Here’s what they said…
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MIND MELD: Our Favorite Dragons in Fantasy

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With the arrival of The Desolation of Smaug on movie screens, We asked this week’s panelists about the most iconic of fantasy creatures: Dragons.

Q: What makes dragons appealing? How do you use dragons in your own writing? What are your favorite depictions in fantasy?

This is what they said…

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Nanotechnology, lifelike robots, Google Glass, Invisibility Metamaterials, and 3-D Printing are just the beginning. Many technologies that recently existed only in the pages of a science fiction novel are becoming reality. We asked this week’s panelists:

Q: What science fictional technologies do you think are right on the horizon and will become part of our everyday lives in the next ten years?

Here’s what our panelists had to say…

Ken Liu
Ken Liu’s fiction has appeared in F&SF, Asimov’s, Analog, Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, and Clarkesworld, among other places. He has won a Nebula, two Hugos, a World Fantasy Award, and a Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Award, and been nominated for the Sturgeon and the Locus Awards. He lives near Boston with his family.

Advances in artificial intelligence are not making many headlines these days, but I think within the next decade computer thinking will make inroads in many areas touching our lives. The reason advances in AI don’t seem very “science fictional” to us is that we keep on moving the goal post: computers now can beat humans at chess, answer Jeopardy questions, understand and transcribe your speech, translate in real time, and make billions on the stock market. While most people still seem “skeptical” about whether computers can think, we already live in a science fictional world.

Perhaps two areas will challenge our comfort. One is the military. Right now, military computers are still used in a way that is “supervised” by human decision makers. The drones that are in the news so much are operated by remote pilots, and targeting systems make recommendations, leaving the final decision to kill up to the human (though some have already described the human oversight as “illusory”). But the machinery of war has a relentless logic: eventually, human oversight will be seen as too slow and error-prone and undependable. We will have fully automated robots fighting our wars, where the decision to fire and kill will be made by machines alone—human oversight, if any, will be limited to the crafting of the algorithms governing these systems.
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With all of the blockbuster, bestselling titles out there, and so many quality stories available, it can be easy for other titles to be overlooked, so this week, we asked our authors and panelists:

Q: What lesser-known books have you recently read that you think deserve more attention, and why?

Here’s what our panelists had to say…

Andrea Johnson
Andrea Johnson Andrea is the redhead behind Little Red Reviewer. She reads mostly scifi and fantasy, adores books that are older than she is and in her spare time enjoys experimenting in the kitchen. Someone at her day job recently told her she sounds taller on the phone.

Just reading this Mind Meld is going to make my TBR explode, isn’t it?

Everyone talks about Kage Baker’s Company series, but it’s a long series that has to be read in a certain order, making it look almost as intimidating as McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga (or moreso, since very few people will tell you what The Company series is actually about). Want just a taste to see if The Company schtick is for you, not to mention Baker’s writing style? Plant yourself in front of the short story collection In The Company of Thieves for a handful of short stories that take place in the world of The Company. There are contemporary tales, a comedy of errors, plenty of history fiction, and even a steampunk story. I can’t think of a better way to get introduced to Kage Baker if you’re not familiar with her work. I always get a little sad thinking about this series, because there will never be another book written in it.

And speaking of long intimidating series and authors who have passed away, I was insanely impressed with Iain Banks’ The Quarry. Lack of the famous middle initial means this isn’t a science fiction novel. It’s just a novel about a man’s last weekend with all his old friends, and his socially handicapped son. We get the story from the son’s point of view. When you hear the name Iain Banks, it’s so easy to jump right to “oh em gee, the Culture novels! You have to read The Culture novels!”. But what if you don’t want to read a Culture novel? What if you tried and you didn’t like them? The Quarry is all the Banks snark with none of the WTF.

On a much happier note is an anthology I just finished the other day – Sidekicks, edited by Sarah Hans. It’s from a smaller publisher, Alliteration Ink, and has very few big names to brag about in the table of contents. But that subject! Everyone loves a superhero movie (or at least that’s what IMDB tells me), but what about their sidekicks, their partners, their helpers, the guy or gal who gets the supersuit dry-cleaned and picks up coffee on the way to the Batcave? Some of the heroes know they’re in a partnership with their sidekick, other hero/sidekick relations are much more complicated. With far more depth and far less spandex than I expected, it was a very impressive collection. The sheer variety of hero/sidekick relationships and types of stories included makes this anthology worth some more mainstream attention.

Wow, I’ve been reading a TON of short fiction this year! My final book that I read recently that I think should get more attention is Clarkesworld Year Four, which includes all the original fiction published in Clarkesworld Magazine. It doesn’t matter how much screen-reading I do, I’ll always prefer a thinly sliced dead tree in my hands. Unfortunately, my propensity towards print makes it difficult to keep up with the all the short story magazines I enjoy, such as Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, and Apex. Getting a copy of Clarkesworld Year Four opened my eyes to fact that many magazines publish annual volumes of all of the original fiction that was published in their magazine and/or on their website. Can you say Best of Both Worlds? I get award winning and innovative short fiction, and a book in my hands! All the annual volumes of the short fiction magazines should be getting more attention.

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MIND MELD: Our Non-Writer Influences

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We asked this week’s panelists about their influences outside of the literary world.

Q: Who are your non-writer influences? And how have they influenced your work?

Here’s what they said…
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We asked this week’s panelists about series fiction in genre.

Q: Everywhere you go in genre, series seem to predominate over single novels. How do you read a series differently as compared to singletons? Have you ever given up on a series, or returned to one after a long absence?

Here’s what they said…

Sally Qwill Janin
Sally ‘Qwill’ Janin is the founder and EIC of The Qwillery, a speculative fiction blog. She is a recovering attorney having practiced IP and telecommunications law for too long. She’s been reading genre fiction since her older brother hooked her on The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and H.P. Lovecraft when she was a pre-teen.

Ah series. As you point out, they are everywhere in genre. I do read the first book of a series differently than I read a standalone novel. I certainly have different expectations. For a standalone, the story must resolve major (and most minor) plot points and come to a satisfying conclusion. When I read the first novel of series, I don’t usually expect more than some minor issues to be resolved, maybe an occasional major issue. I expect the main characters (at least for that part of the series) to be introduced. I also expect all sorts of threads will be left dangling to spur me on to continue reading the series. I don’t even mind cliffhangers. I also expect world building and events that will move the series along. I even read Paranormal Romance series differently than other series in that there should be an HEA (Happily Ever After) or HEA for now along with world building. However, if the story is not interesting and I don’t care about the characters in a series, why should I continue to invest time into what may ultimately be horribly disappointing?
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MIND MELD: Why are Anthologies Important?

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This week, we asked our panelists the following:

Q: Why are anthologies important for writers and readers of Speculative Fiction? What have been some of your favorite anthologies?

Here’s what they said:

Benjanun Sriduangkaew
Benjanun Sriduangkaew likes airports, bees, and makeup. Her works can be found in Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and anthologies such as End of the Road and Clockwork Phoenix 4.

I adore anthologies. As a reader still new to speculative fiction, it’s a quick way to discover writers, both established and up-and-coming, in one go. In any anthology though there’s a unifying theme there is also usually a huge range of styles, forms, and perspectives – diversity in every sense of the word. It can be exciting compared to reading a novel by a familiar writer; there’s something new every time you reach the end of a story and turn the page. Rapid-fire and heady!

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